NEWINGTON - Those who were there still remember how the Newington football team finished its season last year against Wethersfield.
“We were right there, we had them,” Indians quarterback Robert Sanchez said. “We were actually down and then we scored.
“Wethersfield got the ball back towards the end of the fourth quarter with minutes left, they drove the ball and kicked the game winning field goal, won by one.
“The end of the game wasn’t as we planned. It’s something that’s unfortunate and something that we’re going to try to avoid this year.”
“It still hurts me today,” Indians wide receiver C.J. Caldwell added. “We should have beaten them by 40, but things didn’t go our way. We made some bad mistakes and things got out of hand.”
It has been five years since Newington saw its last victory over Wethersfield (33-19 in 2012). Since then, the Eagles have outscored the Indians 120-69 in the last four years.
This year, the Indians are looking to change that and finally claim the trophy as theirs.
“[Wethersfield] plays really well as a team,” Newington head coach Jason Pace said. “They don’t seem like one or two players stand out either offensively or defensively, but overall they’re a good quality team. They’ve beaten Platt and some other teams that we have struggled with, so we know that and we’re prepared for a battle.”
The Eagles rely on quarterback Craig Elliott to get the job done. In Wethersfield’s latest game, Elliot tossed two touchdown passes to defeat Northwest Catholic, 31-6.
“Their quarterback can throw the ball quickly and he gets the ball out of his hands very well,” Sanchez said.
During Wethersfield’s game against Northwest Catholic, Elliott completed 15 of 23 attempts for 225 yards.
This season he has completed 58.7 percent of his passes for 1,017 yards and six touchdowns, with just four interceptions.
Most of Elliott’s passes last Friday were thrown to wide receiver Connor Pace, who had nine catches for 141 yards and a touchdown. Pace has 29 catches on 306 yards with two touchdowns this season.
While the Eagles’ offense can make plays and score points, their defense is able to stop the ball.
“Their defense, I believe, is their strength,” Pace said. “We’ve seen them on film. They don’t allow a lot of points, because as a defense they just get 11 guys to the ball all the time. That shows a lot of commitment to the pursuit and commitment to one another.”
The Eagles also rely on key rusher Rossano Digiacomo. He has rushed for a total of 308 yards this season, but that’s not all. Digiacomo is one of their leading defenders, with seven sacks, 31 solo tackles and 71 total tackles. The 5-foot-6 defender is someone the Indians will have to watch out for.
The game plan for today is to take advantage of what little weaknesses Wethersfield has, which means offensively the Indians must play a near perfect game. The Indians also want to make sure their pace of play is balanced.
“We want to make sure offensively we don’t make any mistakes,” Pace said. “We have to make sure we protect the ball. We also want to make sure we’re balanced as far as our run [and] pass game, and just take advantage of what our defense is giving us.”
This season didn’t necessarily pan out the way the Indians wanted, but they have seen improvement and growth under the new instruction of their first-year head coach.
“It’s a different season,” Sanchez said. “The outcome isn’t what we expect, but I can say this was a good season because of the kids I got to play with and the coaches I got to play for.
“I’ve seen growth in this program since I’ve started. I’ve seen a lot of commitment and dedication come forward. I’ve seen a lot of kids, especially underclassmen, step up and that’s something I haven’t seen within the past couple years.”
“I want to finish this season with win, especially against Wethersfield.” Sanchez said. “I want to bring that trophy back, I want to end it well. For a lot of us, we may never play college football, so it’s going to be our last time playing football ever. We want to make sure we go out good and make it a game to remember.”